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Mario Lemieux Foundation Opens 34th Austin’s Playroom at AHN West Penn Hospital’s NICU Step-Down/Pediatrics Unit

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Sept. 19, 2017) – Allegheny Health Network’s West Penn Hospital and The Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today the opening of an Austin’s Playroom at the hospital’s NICU Step-Down/Pediatrics Unit, which serves babies and their families who are making the transition from West Penn’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to home.

Nathalie Lemieux, vice president, Mario Lemieux Foundation/Chair, Austin’s Playroom Project; Nancy Angus, executive director, Mario Lemieux Foundation; Ron Andro, president and CEO, West Penn Hospital; Joseph Aracri, DO, chair, Department of Pediatrics, AHN, and special invited guests officially opened the space. West Penn is now home to two Austin’s Playrooms; the other has served NICU families for several years.

“We are so pleased to open the 34th Austin’s Playroom,” said Mrs. Lemieux. “Our goal is to reach as many children and families as possible, and we are excited to bring Austin’s Playroom to families who are preparing to take their new babies home.”

Austin’s Playroom Project was established as a result of Nathalie and Mario Lemieux’s personal experience while caring for their infant son, Austin. In 1996, Austin was born profoundly premature and spent 71 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. While they were caring for Austin, there was nothing to engage his sisters, who were both toddlers at the time. It was then Mario and Nathalie realized a need for playrooms and began their plan to establish Austin’s Playroom Project.

The Pittsburgh Society of Investment Professionals and Seremet Family Foundation contributed to the playroom through the Lemieux Foundation. The Learmonth Fund of Pittsburgh also contributed, as did the employees of West Penn Hospital.

“On behalf of the staff and patients of West Penn Hospital, we are all grateful for the generosity of the Mario Lemieux Foundation and we are proud to be the site of the 34th Austin’s Playroom,” Andro said. “West Penn has been home to an Austin’s Playroom since 2008. It was an amazing gift to our patients and has been used by kids every day since.”

“As a health care professional, I have seen first-hand how these playrooms fill an important need for a hospital like West Penn, which sees so many new mothers, fathers and babies,” Dr. Aracri said. “We thank the Mario Lemieux Foundation and all of the contributors who helped make this project a rality.”

The Mario Lemieux Foundation was created in 1993 after hockey legend and NHL Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux survived Hodgkin’s disease. The Lemieux Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playroom Project.

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About the Mario Lemieux Foundation:

The Mario Lemieux Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research and patient care, as well as Austin’s Playroom Project, an initiative that creates playrooms for children and families in medical facilities. Since 1998, the Lemieux Foundation has given over $20 million to cancer research and patient care initiatives in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. Recent projects include a $2.5M gift in 2014 to establish the Mario Lemieux Lymphoma Center for Children and Young Adults at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and a $3.5M gift to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute to open the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at the Hillman Cancer Center in 2012. Additionally, the Foundation has opened 33 Austin’s Playrooms in Western Pennsylvania as well as three military playrooms at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in Camp Pendleton, CA and Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC. More